I recently attended for the first time a quarterly meeting about school organics recycling. Hosted by Hennepin County’s Department of Environmental Services, the attendees comprised representatives from suburban schools who have ongoing organics recycling programs and a few of us who are trying to implement similar programs in Minneapolis schools.
The meeting, which was largely informative and supportive, was marred by an invited presentation by a salesman who was marketing bottled water in biodegradable bottles. Enduring the long power-point and feeling like a captive audience, the irony and offensiveness of the situation overtook my composure, such that at the conclusion I blurted, “Why are we talking about bottled water? Aren’t we trying to stop using bottled water?”
There were defensive responses from several school officials to the effect of how their schools are already selling bottled water, and wouldn’t it be an improvement to put the discarded bottles into the organics bins? John Jaimez, chair of the meeting, said that he appreciated the fact that the bottles were produced and filled locally, thus reducing the trucking distances.
“The schools shouldn’t be selling bottled water in the first place!” I retorted. I was seeing red, which is never a good thing, as I sacrifice equanimity, articulateness and credibility in the process.
John patiently pulled the focus back to the meeting agenda and away from the salesman, who quietly packed up his wares and took his leave.
There ought to be a happy medium between sitting back with my hands politely folded in my lap, saying nothing in the presence of wrong-headed practices, and ranting and raving. I don’t really want to end up a wild-haired crone tramping the sidewalks and berating the neighbors for murdering the planet. Nor do I aspire to demureness.
We know an educated family, whose intelligent children are in school with ours, who does not believe in global warming. In the course of carpooling, I have twice found myself embroiled in arguments with the two sons of the family. They are steadfast in their depiction of global warming as overblown. A friend compared this to a fundamentalist acquaintance of hers who doesn’t believe in evolution. Returning from her first trip to the Grand Canyon, my friend asked the fundamentalist, “How do you explain the Grand Canyon, if you don’t believe in evolution?”
“I’m working on it,” he replied.
“And how do you make sense of the dinosaurs?” asked my friend.
“I try not to think about them.”
My inclination is to write off the family, to pity their ignorance. Certainly there is no point in trying to dissuade them. However, engaging in conversation with the parents – both of them professionals and not stupid – could perhaps enlighten me as to the beliefs that underlie a skepticism of global warming that may be more widespread than I realize.